SpaceX has been given the green light to deploy 7,500 new Starlink satellites

The Federal Trade Commission (FCC) has authorized SpaceX to deploy up to 7,500 new communications satellites from its Starlink network. Something to reassure its customers… and annoy astronomers.

There are already 3271 Starlink satellites in orbit and SpaceX will finally be able to go much further: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC, Federal Trade Commission) has just given the green light to Elon Musk’s company to send up to 7,500 new satellites. Enough to quadruple its Starlink constellation and thus meet increasingly pressing bandwidth needs – whether in its new air and maritime services, or for its existing customers.

Thanks to this authorization, SpaceX will strengthen its space network offer established in LEO orbit (low earth orbit, low earth orbit). But the FTC did not give carte blanche to SpaceX since the initial request was for 30,000 units. The “critical mass” estimated by the company to have a 100% secure and redundant network.

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This new authorization will allow SpaceX not only to strengthen its network by number, but also by power. As the FCC notes, its decision ” will allow SpaceX to launch the 2e starlink generation “. A highly anticipated second generation, because it increases the performance of the previous one tenfold.

While the Gen 1 is 2.8m long and 1.4m wide, the Gen 2 of these communications satellites will be 7m long and 3m wide. Larger dimensions which are obviously paid for by a greater weight of 1.25 tonnes, against 295 kg for the v1.5 currently in service (v1.0 weighed 260 kg). The Falcon 9 rocket will therefore launch far fewer units per flight, but SpaceX will no doubt make more logical use of the Falcon Heavy version. The first has “only” 22.8 tons of low orbit payload against 63.8 tons for Falcon Heavy (a Falcon 9 supported by two boosters). There is no doubt that in addition to the conquest of Mars, it is also the faster consolidation of Starlink that motivates SpaceX engineers to finalize the development of the even more powerful Starship (more than 100 tons).

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With more than half a million subscribers, SpaceX is already a tech hit that got a big boost during the first phase of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainians making innovative use of high-speed internet connection in their way of conducting military operations. A great publicity stunt for Mr. Musk’s company, which recently turned sour with his decision (since canceled) to stop giving free bandwidth to the government of Kyiv. Or the very substantial increase in equipment and service prices in this country.

In November 2019 alone, when the constellation was in its infancy, Starlink was already disfiguring the work of scientists. Here at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. Credit: CTIO, NOIRLab, NSF, AURA and DECam DELVE Survey

The launch of 7,500 satellites even larger than the previous generation should not please astronomers, both professional and amateur. The presence of more than 3000 objects in this low orbit has already been denounced many times by the scientific community, for the interference they create during sky observation sequences.

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